Norska - Too Many Winters - (9/10)
Published on January 10, 2018
Oregon Metal Strikes Again!
Seven years ago, an absolutely crushing sludge/doom quartet from Oregon made huge waves in the underground doom scene with a self-titled EP. It had been seven years since their formation but they finally put it all together for one incredibly heavy EP and made a name for themselves. Featuring Aaron Rieseberg of YOB on bass, that quartet was Norska. They have been very quiet since that EP but in May of last year, Brutal Panda Records released their debut full-length entitled Too Many Winters.
If you are well-acquainted with the metal scene in Oregon, you can tell Norska are cut from the same cloth as bands like YOB and Vhol. The opening track, “Samhain,” even has that classic YOB guitar tone that is so crunchy and so powerful. Sure it helps that Aaron Rieseberg is the bassist for both bands but what helps even more is that the guitarist is his brother, Dustin Rieseberg. That crunchy guitar tone remains for a good portion of the album and awesome riffs follow in its path. Dustin also has a number of great melody lines on this album along with frontman Jim Lowder. The title track is full of great riffs and melodies along with the aptly titled “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” “Wave of Regrets” is basically one intricate, melancholy guitar melody with mini-solos weaved into it and it is gorgeous.
If you listen closely, you can hear the killer bass lines Aaron lays down on this album along with beefing up the riffs. His bass really complements the guitar melodies nicely. Jason Oswald’s drumming is also pretty awesome. You can really hear it in the opening notes of “Samhain.” His beats are punishing and complement the rest of Norska’s sound beautifully but he plays with a softness that most doom and sludge drummers do not possess. You can really hear his soft hands in the cymbals on “Fire Patience Backbone,” which both contrasts and complements his punishing beats.
Jim Lowder definitely has a unique vocal style, even for doom/sludge, and it makes Norska that much more of a compelling listen. His high screams sound like those of a torture victim but there is a certain charm to his approach that works really well for this style. Jim’s mid-range has the most power behind it but his high screams are so harsh and off-putting that it winds up being his strongest vocal style. That being said, the high part of his mid-range is fantastic on “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” His low-end has a certain sexual quality to it that is reminiscent of the great Peter Steele.
Norska may not have released the best doom album of 2017 but it is still a damn good one that establishes them as a sludgy force to be reckoned with. It may have taken six years for Too Many Winters to see the light of day but it was well worth the wait and hopefully, it will not take nearly as long for Norska to unleash a follow-up upon the world.